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Boise Mayor visits Morning Edition to talk about lethal force, public safety and choosing another city council member

Boise Mayor Lauren McLean
City of Boise
Boise Mayor Lauren McLean

August 3, 2023, was a horrible day in Boise. First responders were first called to a downtown street where a teen skateboarder was hit and killed by a vehicle.

A very short time later, police responded to yet another incident of a man with a weapon. With law enforcement using lethal force for the second time in as many weeks, the man was dead.

“I was with first responders after both took place,” said Boise Mayor Lauren McLean. “I'm concerned. I'm concerned for our officers who find themselves in these situations, and for the families involved and for our community. But I want to be clear that our crime is the lowest it's been in 22 years.”

McLean visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the two incidents, public safety, pedestrian safety and her criteria for choosing the next member of the Boise City Council.

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It's Morning Edition. Good morning. I'm George Prentice. It is time for us to spend some time with Boise Mayor Lauren McLean. Mayor McLean, welcome back to the program.

LAUREN MCLEAN: Well, thanks, George. Good morning.

PRENTICE: Good morning to you. I want to start on a rather serious note, and that is we had a pretty rough week last week. There was one day when a teenager, a Boise student riding a skateboard, was struck, and killed by a vehicle. And then... a way- too- short amount of time later, there was a report of a man with a weapon. And then we had Boise police using lethal force. I want to talk about traffic safety and pedestrian safety in a moment. But let's talk about lethal force. I don't think it's a stretch for some people to think, some days, that the world feels a little less safe. And in the last couple of weeks, I've heard some folks say they feel as if Boise is a little less safe. So, could you talk to them for a moment?

MCLEAN: Yeah, and I'd say that especially last week, it was it was a tough day with the with both incidents. I know we're going to talk about them separately. And I'll start first with the officer- involved shootings. But, you know, it was a …it was a tough day. I was with first responders after both took place. You know, and just thinking about it as everybody is, you know, I'm concerned. I'm concerned for our officers who find themselves in these situations and for the families involved, for our community. But I want to be clear that our crime is the lowest it's been in 22 years. We're a safe city. And yet I think we're grappling with that. We're the safest we've been in 22 years. And yet we're seeing a spike in critical incidents where officers are involved in shootings. And that's why, say, I'm concerned because it impacts all of us. Nobody wants to be in these situations. So I can tell you that, you know, we step back and there are questions that need to be answered. We need to answer the questions of why is this happening. We need to look at whether or not there are patterns in these incidents. Are more people armed? Are incidents involving armed people escalating? You know, the chief referenced his concerns around that last week. And I and I know council members would like to see the data and get at whether there are trends there. And, you know, thinking back just a little bit further to that terrifying situation recently in the North end where our first responders had to arrive on the scene and make split second decisions, ones that ultimately kept our neighborhood safe. But those are tough and really harrowing calls. I don't want them in those situations. I don't want families or our community in those situations. You know. And right now, I'm right smack in the middle of interviewing candidates for the Office of Police Accountability. And together with council leadership, we know that we've got to get this office right because of its important role. You've got the critical incident task force that looks at shootings and internal affairs. So, the Boise Police Department that will look at these shootings and investigate the events from an operations perspective. But we've got to have an agency that looks beyond operations and ask the questions about trends, underlying causes. And I'll task them with getting at just that what's happening in our systems. Often systems beyond the control of the city that ought to be addressed are there needs in mental health systems and parole systems? And what resources could we the larger we right the city, the state, the community invest in to address the challenges and prevent incidents,

PRENTICE: And again, it needs to be totally independent.

MCLEAN: Yes, it's got to be totally independent. And the thing is, is that you've got internal reviews and the and the and the counties and other agencies that review the operations of these incidents where the police are using force. What the must do is look beyond those operations to see what are the underlying causes that and if they were addressed, could we prevent these situations because we don't want our officers to be in these situations. We don't want the community to be in these situations. And just to safety overall, I want to say again, and this is why I think we're all grappling with this, we are safe. Our crime continues to go down. Just several weeks ago, the state released a report that demonstrates yet again how much our crime has fallen in the last year and then every year, the last several years. And that's possible because we're investing in safety in tools that save lives, in keeping our community safe and investing in our neighborhoods and proactive community policing and housing and other supports that keep our residents safe. And so this is a time that we've got to be asking the questions that I'm asking with urgency and focus to take a look at the systems surrounding the events and to come up with answers and a path forward for all of us.

PRENTICE: There are too many pedestrians being hurt and or killed, we have a problem. So, what are we doing about that?

MCLEAN: You know, first of all, this one, I'm sure, with so many parents just hit so close to home. And I want to extend my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Jaden, whose death last week was a real tragedy. Any death is too many for pedestrians, for anyone. But last week it just hit us. He was killed on his way to high school orientation, surrounded by friends. And it's heartbreaking in ways that only people going through it can understand. And I know that so many people are grieving today. And, you know, just last night, I went over and looked and stood for a little while by myself at his memorial, and saw the outpouring of, you know, kids who left notes, adults who loved him. Well, And it's a reminder….of this truth that we're experiencing across this region that traffic deaths are on the rise in this valley. Jaden was not the first person that was taken from his family or from this community this year. And too many people are experiencing this loss and trauma. So, I'd like to talk a little bit about what we're doing. I am committed Boise is committed. The city council is committed working closely with Jimmy Hallyburton to Vision Zero planning. And that's the idea that you have better road systems and better street engineering. And if you have that, you can eliminate and prevent deaths and fatalities on our roads and ultimately get that number to zero. That's why it's called Vision zero. And while we don't control our streets, our city has developed plans and we're looking at what we can do as a city in the small area that we have to further Vision zero. But we're also I'm also working closely with the Ada County Highway District and COMPASS, the regional Planning group, on a shared commitment, along with our city council, side by side with our city council to make Vision Zero real and implemented across this region and throughout our city. You know, this week, Council President Jimmy Halliburton and I are sitting down with our staff, with leadership and their staff and with community advocates to assess what we can do quickly and what steps need to be taken for long term systemic improvements. Because the way we design and engineer roads has so much impact and the possibilities really are endless, but we've got to be willing to do it. And last week's experience, I think, was a jolt for so many people in this community. And it's important to remember that we've lost grandparents, we've lost neighbors. And each time that happens, we have to be willing to recognize that we all have a responsibility when we're driving in our cars, when we're on the roads, when we're sharing the roads, it's on us to make sure that we're paying attention and doing all that we can to keep each other safe, especially as our kids are heading back to school. Saw Sage started yesterday or somewhat recently was over there yesterday. Kids are everywhere and it's so joyful. But we've got to as drivers on the roads, watch out for everyone pedestrians, cyclists, other drivers, families and friends and neighbors. We've got to take care of one each other, one another. And I'd say that we have, as drivers in particular, enormous power when we get behind the wheel. And I'm asking every Boise in to carry that message with them because school starts and in every week ahead, we’ve got to look out for one another because we all matter so much.

PRENTICE: I only have a couple of minutes left. I know you're in the midst of choosing another member of the Boise Council to fill the seat open since Holli Woodings stepped away from office. You’re down to a handful of candidates. Do you have a go-to question where the answers truly differentiate one candidate from another?

MCLEAN: You know, every time I've had to do this, which has been more than I ever would have wished for George, but as part of the job, depending on the situation, I tend to have a different question. The thing that is very important to me has always driven me is the value of community service and community engagement. So I look for that, whether it's in the staff that I hire or the appointments to council that I'm making. I really think the Boiseans value service and Boiseans value folks that are committed to engaging in community, to rolling up their sleeves, working really hard and folks that give back because we recognize how much our city gives to us. And so I look for this and the folks that I interview, and then I'd say that this seat's unique because the person's got to serve on the board in Harris Ranch. And so I'm looking for someone with experience in city issues and understanding of partners and the way the city invests and engages in neighborhoods as well. As you know, when I look at the council right now and the loss of Elaine Clegg, for instance, the importance of understanding, planning and planning and policy decisions in these areas.

PRENTICE: Real quick, by the way: do you ask if they are up for running for office? Because quite often they only have that seat for a couple of months before an election comes up?

MCLEAN: Yeah. And in both cases, I've asked if folks are interested or planning to. Of course, in this case, some of them already have said that they are. But it's a conversation that I've had with all the candidates.

PRENTICE: We're expecting an announcement maybe later this week?

MCLEAN: I think later this week. Yes. That's my plan.

PRENTICE: Good luck with that. And for now, Mayor Lauren McLean, thanks for giving us some time this morning.

MCLEAN: Thanks so much, George.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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